Berni, Francis

, called by some writers Berna or Bernia, was one of the most celebrated Italian poets of the sixteenth century. He was born about the conclusion of the fifteenth, at Lamporecchio, in that part of Tuscany called Val-di-Nievole, of a noble but impoverished family of Florence. In his nineteenth year he went to Koine, to his relation cardinal Bibiena, who according to his own account, did him neither good nor harm. He was then obliged to take the office of secretary to Giberti, bishop of Verona, who was datary to pope Leo X. On this he assumed the ecclesiastical habit, in hopes of sharing some of that prelate’s patronage, but the mean and dull employment of his | office of secretary, and for which he was ill paid, was very unsuitable to his disposition. There was at Rome what he liked better, a society or academy of young ecclesiastics as gay as himself, and lovers of wit and poetry like himself, who, no doubt in order to point out their taste for wine, and their thoughtless habits, were called Vignajuoli, vinedressers. To this belonged Mauro, Casa, Firenzuola, Capilupij and many others. In their meetings they laughed at every thing, and made verses and witticisms on the most grave and solemn subjects. The compositions Berni contributed on these occasions, were so superior to the others, that verses composed in the same style began to be called “La poesia Bernesca.

Berni was at Rome in 1527, when it was plundered by the army of the constable of Bourbon, and lost all he possessed. He then travelled with his patron Giberti to Verona, Venice, and Padua, but being tired of the service, and having no longer any hopes of adding to a canonry in the church of Florence, which he had possessed some years, he retired to that city with a view to a life of independence and moderation. Here an acquaintance which he unhappily formed with two great men proved fatal to him, Alexander de Medici, duke of Florence, and the young cardinal Hippolito de Medici, each of whom is supposed to have contended with the other, which should first destroy his rival by poison. One of them is said to have been desirous of employing Berni in this detestable project, and he having refused his assistance, fell a victim to the revenge of his patron, by a death of similar treachery. The cardinal certainly died in 1535, and, according to all historians, by poison. The death of Berni is fixed on July 26, 1536, from which long interval it has been thought improbable that the duke Alexander would have caused him to be poisoned, for not having concurred in the destruction of a rival who had been dead probably a year; but there is nothing in the character of Alexander to make us think he would scruple at this additional crime, and that for a very good reason, to get rid of one who was privy to his desiga upon the cardinal.

Berni’s character was in all respects a singular one, but in few deserving imitation. His morals as well as his writings were of the licentious cast, and as to his manners, indolence seemed to predominate. He had no pleasure in music, dancing, gaming, or hunting: his sole delight was, | in having nothing to do, and stretching himself at full length on his bed. His chief exercise was to eat a little, and then compose himself to sleep, and after sleep to eat again. He observed neither days nor almanacks and his servants were ordered to bring him no news whether good or bad. That he was not, however, so entirely devoted to indolence, as we might, from the character which he has chosen to give of himself, be induced to believe, sufficiently appears from his numerous writings, and particularly from his having reformed and new-modelled the extensive poem of “Orlando Innamorato” of the count Bojardo. This work he is said to have undertaken in competition with the “Orlando Furioso” of Ariosto, which has given occasion to accuse Berni of presumption and of ignorance; but Berni was too well acquainted with the nature of his own talents, calculated only for the burlesque and ridiculous, to suppose that he could rival Ariosto. He has, however, both in this and in other parts of his writings, shewn that he could occasionally elevate his style; and the introductory verses to each canto of the Orlando Innamorato, which are generally his own composition, are not the least admired nor the least valuable parts of the work. That the alterations of Berni raised the poem of Bojardo into more general notice, may be conjectured from the various editions of the reformed work, which issued from the press soon, after its first appearance, and which are yet sought after with avidity. Some of these editions are, that of Venice, 1541,4to; of Milan, 1542, 8vo and Venice, with additions, 1545, 4to which last is in great request. There are two very correct modern editions that of Naples, but dated Florence, 1725, and that by Molini, Paris, 1768, 4 vols. 12mo. Berni’s other works are, 1. “Rime burlesche,” often reprinted with those of Casa, Mauro, Molza, and other poets of the same class. The first edition is that of Venice, 1538, 8vo. Another valuable edition is that of Grazzini, called Lasca, in 2 vols. Florence, 1548, and 1555, 8vo. This last volume is the most rare, being printed only once, and the other twice. 2. “La Catrina, atto scenico rusticale,Florence, 1567, 8vo, written in the common dialect of the peasantry of Tuscany, like the “Nencia” of Barberhio, the “Cecco” of Varlongo, &c. It “was afterwards printed in a collection of comedies of the sixteenth century, Naples, 1731, 8vo. 3.” Carmina,“or Latin poems, to be found in the” Carmina quinque Etruscorura | poetarum,“Florence, 1562, 8vo, and in the” Carmina illustrium poetarum Italorum," ibid, 1719, 8vo. 1


Biog. Universelle Roscoe’s L?o. Baillet Jugemens des Savan?.—Moreri.